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Remembering Rosenstrasse

History, Memory and Identity in Contemporary Germany

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Hilary Potter

In February 1943 intermarried Germans gathered in Berlin’s Rosenstrasse to protest the feared deportation of their Jewish spouses. This book examines the competing representations of the Rosenstrasse protest in contemporary Germany, demonstrating how cultural memories of this event are intertwined with each other and with concepts of identity. It analyses these shifting patterns of memory and what they reveal about the dynamics of the past–present relationship from the earliest post-unification period up to the present day. Interdisciplinary in its approach, the book provides insights into the historical debate surrounding the protest, accounts in popular history and biography, an analysis of von Trotta’s 2003 film Rosenstraße, and an exploration of the multiple memorials to this historical event.

The study reveals that the protest’s remembrance is fraught with competing desires: to have a less encumbered engagement with this past and to retain a critical memory of the events that allows for a recognition of both heroism and accountability. It concludes that we are on the cusp of witnessing a new shift in remembering that reflects contemporary socio-political tensions with the resurgence of the far right, noting how this is already becoming visible in existing representations of the Rosenstrasse protest.

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Chapter 1: The Rosenstraße Protest in Context

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Chapter 1

The Rosenstraße Protest in Context

As a starting point in understanding remembrance of the Rosenstraße protest the question to be asked is why it is remembered in unified Germany. The next question should then be, were the events ignored in divided Germany, and if so, then why? The answers are complex. Given my focus on representations from 1990 onwards, it would seem, at first glance, that this book reinforces the notion that it is only since unification that engagement with the protest has been possible. Historians and journalists alike have previously emphasised the protest’s belated recognition, or in some cases suggested it has been deliberately ignored.6 It is easy to see how this conclusion can be drawn. Most of the representations are much more recent, and it certainly was not a major part of either East or West Germany’s resistance legacies. We could argue it was neglected but to suggest it has been deliberately or actively ignored is inaccurate. It was not a prominent feature, and is not the most prominent of resistance narratives, yet this does not equate to being actively ignored or even suppressed. If that were the case, how could we explain the protest’s earliest representation in December 1945, and fleeting representations in the years that followed? This chapter addresses when, where and why the protest has emerged, disappeared and re-emerged at different points since 1945 so as to be able to understand the subsequent representations and debates discussed...

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